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Bordeaux Big Guns to Release Early

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Bordeaux’s 2013 vintage is likely to come out early but will the prices please the market?

As the Bordeaux 2013 en primeur week gets into its stride, there is every indication this will be a swift campaign, with insiders suggesting the top wines may announce their prices within the next two weeks.

“It will be quick,” Jean-Philippe Delmas, estate manager at Château Haut-Brion told Wine-Searcher. “Every vintage that’s not great is quick, and no one is pretending that 2013 is a great vintage.”

Thibault Pontallier, Château Margaux’s ambassador to Asia said: “We will release earlier than normal,” while declining to be any more specific than “the end of April”.

Privately, however, well-placed sources are sure the first growths will release earlier than that.

“It will be within the next couple of weeks,” one St.-Émilion managing director told Wine-Searcher. “I expect Mouton Rothschild and possibly Margaux to be the first to come out.”

Pontallier – the son of the first growth’s managing director Paul Pontallier – was more forthcoming than most of his peers on the subject of price.

“If it was my decision, I would expect a small symbolic increase on the price of the 2012. That vintage was well priced and I would peg it a bit higher than that, » he said.

“We’re not crazy. We know the market and we know people like the wine. I’d like 2012 and 2013 to be remembered as great wines to buy and to drink – as it used to be.”

Château Margaux released its 2012 at €240 ex-cellar, a drop of 33 percent on the price of the 2011.

But even if its 2013 is a similar price, some merchants are unsure it will be low enough.

“It needs to be sub-€200 or it will kill the market,” Justin Liddle

The situation is complicated by the tiny quantities of wine available. Across Bordeaux, both Right and Left Bank, yields were dramatically down, and the quality of the remaining grapes was such that even smaller quantities found their way into the wines.

At Cos d’Estournel in Saint-Estèphe for example, 30 percent of the Merlot was lost. “We cropped at 11 hectolitres per hectare,” managing director Aymeric de Gironde told Wine-Searcher, “but with rigorous selection the real production was around 5hl/ha” – a fraction of normal cropping levels.

The best wines – the first growths, the super seconds like Cos d’Estournel, and highly regarded properties like Pontet-Canet – have been admired for their freshness, structure and charm. Mouton and Haut-Brion are particularly praised, as are their second wines but, say merchants, there is still no compelling reason to offer them for sale.

“These are wines that people are going to want to drink, but the question is, when?” Giles Cooper, head of marketing at a London merchant said.

Annette Alvarez Peters, head of wine, spirits and beer at the enormous U.S. supermarket chain Costco, agreed. “I wasn’t expecting the wines to be so fresh and approachable. They will chime well with the U.S. palate, but the tough decision is the price point.”

Adam Lechmere

1st April 2013


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